Ice Palette (+ Rework)



Inspired by Mark Seaver’s great ice shots, I went to our local river today in search of birefringence. The sun was very bright at 3pm after our coldest night (-13 deg C) so far this winter in Korea. Ice had formed along the edges of the water, and, in a few places where it was very thin and pretty clear, I caught first sight ever of birefringence. It started to fade as the sun moved lower in the sky, but I managed to photo this view of it in a small sheet of horizontal ice formed between branches resting on the water.

Type of Critique Requested

  • Aesthetic: Feedback on the overall visual appeal of the image, including its color, lighting, cropping, and composition.
  • Technical: Feedback on the technical aspects of the image, such as exposure, color, focus and reproduction of colors and details, post-processing, and print quality.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

The colours are considerably enhanced by post-processing and I wonder if this is acceptable to you. I’m not happy with the sharpness, but it was impossible to stand in the river to get a closer view, or to stack. I do hope I can get much better views of this phenomenon in the future. It’s just a first step.

Technical Details

D500 + 105mm + CPL 1/100 f10 ISO 200

Cropping PS Shadows/Highlights MediumCurves Vibrance - Topaz Denoise


Congratulations on making the effort and getting the prize even if it’s not up to your expectations. I can’t recall seeing this more than a handful of times and I think I’ve only got one photo of it and the area it covered wasn’t this big. Seems to me you’d have to work to get the colors to show as vividly as they do IRL, so that doesn’t bug me. I would try working with some color paint or frequency separation in Ps to change that bit of brownish ice at the top right. I don’t know if it would work, but you could experiment and see. I might also experiment with some cropping to see if some smaller slices of this scene work on their own. Tough to judge since it is mostly of a piece already.

Mike this looks great. I’m thoroughly enjoying the mix of wavy “horizontal” lines and vertical bands of birefringent color. Yes, the use of the polarizer and the angle with the sun result in low contrast raw files with Adobe adding considerable saturation as/if you expand the histogram. However, if you aare wearing polarized sunglasses, you see colors a lot like these.

I love this man!
The colors do seem to be a bit punchy, and I think most experienced photographers would understand this effect is created by the use of a CPL, so exaggerating the effect probably doesn’t win you many points; however, I think it kind of works here depending on what you wanted to convey. For shots like this, I like to use my 100-400 on a tripod… it just provides a lot more depth of field and compositional options than a macro lens can, usually.
Keep making images like this, they are super cool.

Hi Mike, what a fascinating phenomenon and cool image! I’m glad you were able to record this image. I like the square crop in your composition. The darker slice of empty space in the upper right catches my eye and interrupts the flow of the color and lines of the ice in the center. The colors do appear just a touch overly vibrant especially the magentas but I think they work to showcase the birefringence if that is the intent. The wavy lines are really nice. Good job here Mike!

Thank you all for the encouraging and practical comments. @Kris_Smith I’ll play around with your suggestions for alternatives. @Mark_Seaver I was wearing polarized sunglasses when searching (thanks to some of your previous remarks on birefringence). I don’t think I would have seen it without them. I’m glad my “mentor” finds this shot OK! @Matt_Payne I was torn between making this more realistic (less punchy) for the Macro section, but preferred the somewhat over-the-top processing (and the cropping) for the Abstract category. I agree my telephoto would have done a better job (and reached other patches of colour in the river) - so maybe I’ll get a CPL for the 150-600 one of these days - thanks for suggesting this. @Alfredo_Mora Since your category started it has expanded the interests of many of us on NPN, I think. It’s certainly sent me down new paths. I’ll try cutting out the dark top to make this more of a “true” abstract. But I’ll leave the colours as is, as the colour balance is I feel natural, even though I exaggerated the scene because I love bright colours when nature gives us opportunities to embellish them.


Great first step, Mike. I’ve never seen this phenomenon either, so a special treat for me. Love the colors and the rework looks even better. Very nicely seen and captured.

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Birefringence – that’s a fifty dollar word that I will have to look up. Thanks for the education. I love your image, especially the rework. I join the other commenters on giving you accolades and kudos for this superb, colorful, ice study. The colors and lines that are the main compositional elements work wonders. Great image.

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Thanks for your kind words @linda_mellor and @Larry_Greenbaum. Larry, check out Mark Seaver’s portfolio for good examples and definition.

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My reply is on the rework.

This is a very good abstract image, it is not immediately revealed what it is, especially since ice not normally have these types of colors and as I understand the colors are only seen if you have your polaroid sunglasses on!

I like a lot the colors and the patterns. They invite you to explore the image further. The colors are just amazing, and at least approximately include the three second colors of the color wheel. It is good that the white lines cross the image diagonally. The few lines in the LLC going in the perpendicular direction adds to the interest.

To me the technical parts are good enough, the sharpness issue that you mentioned does not at all reduce the impact of the image.

Thanks, @Ola_Jovall . I wore those sunglasses, and the CPL brought out the colours; and these were enhanced in Photoshop. I was delighted to find this, and I’m sure anyone can if they look on very thin, fairly clear ice, in bright and low-angled sun, looking towards the sun, wearing the polaroid sunglasses of course.

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